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Chemical Safety: 4 Ways to Protect Employees

Julie Copeland

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More than 32 million workers (more than 20% of the entire U.S. workforce) are exposed to hazardous chemical products in the workplace. According to the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA), 650,000 different chemicals are present in more than 3 million American workplaces.

Hazardous chemicals were the cause of nearly 3 million nonfatal private industry injuries or illnesses in 2014 and the dangers of these chemicals present extreme challenges for both employers and employees.

  • Workplace chemical exposures have been linked to cancers and other lung, kidney, skin, heart, stomach, brain, nerve and reproductive diseases.
  • According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Occupational Skin Disease (OSD) is the second most common type of occupational disease.
  • Chemical agents are the main cause of occupational skin diseases and disorders. These agents are divided into two types: primary irritants and sensitizers. Primary or direct irritants act directly on the skin through chemical reactions. Sensitizers may not cause immediate skin reactions, but repeated exposure can result in allergic reactions.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2014 that more than half of the nearly 3 million chemical injury cases were of a more serious nature that involved days away from work, job transfer or restriction of duties.
  • Hazardous chemicals take only 6-8 seconds to penetrate the eye’s outer membrane and 10 to 15 seconds to severely affect the skin

What steps can you take to protect your employees and ensure their safety?

1) Provide the Proper Protective Equipment

Working with hazardous chemicals can be extremely dangerous and employees must wear the proper equipment to ensure their safety. This includes, proper googles and face shields, chemical gloves, protective clothing and coveralls and the proper footwear. Arbill has an extensive line of chemical PPE to help protect your employees.

2) Develop a HAZCOM Program 

Facilities using hazardous materials must develop and implement a Hazard Communication (HAZCOM) program. This program includes a written plan, employee training, chemical inventory and SDSs. Having a plan in place is key in the event of an incident. If you need help developing a plan, Arbill offers a course on Hazard Communication that satisfies training requirements and will educate your employees. 

3) Make Eyewash Stations and Showers Easily Accessible 

It is extremely important to have an eyewash station in your facility. For skin exposure, workers have seconds to get to an eyewash station or shower to prevent severe damage. Employees must know where these stations are located and in the event that an employee can’t see must be able to find the station in the dark. You should check to make sure that access to the stations are not blocked by any materials and make sure they are located within close proximity to employees working with chemicals.


4) Train Employees on Proper Use of Eyewash Station

Do your workers know how to use an eyewash station or shower? Providing the necessary training is an important step to ensure their safety. Stress the importance of properly cleaning the affected area and warn your employees to never rub the injury as this can force contaminants deeper into the skin or eyes. Also, remind employees to shed clothes that have chemicals on them and flush their skin for 15 minutes or until emergency medical assistance arrives. Encourage employees to assist others in the event of exposure and be quick and decisive when an incident happens.

Hazardous chemicals present a dangerous challenge to employers and employees. Using the tips outlined above is a good first step in developing a comprehensive program to protect your workers from chemical hazards. Arbill has the PPE, HAZCOM training and services you need to protect your employees and be prepared in the event of an emergency.

Schedule a free consultation with one of our Safety Experts today and develop your blueprint for safety success.

Have a Safe Day!

Topics: Chemical Safety/HazMat/Spill Prevention

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